Hegyeshalom, Gateway to Hungary

My story is from the 1980s, a time of the Cold War.

We, that is George, the children and myself, were used to travelling to Hungary. We had lots of relatives there. We knew we needed a visa, but we also knew that we could obtain one at the border. So we set off on the first weekend in August – and so it seems did the rest of the world.

On arrival at the border crossing between Austria and Hungary there were not the usual two or three cars in front of us. Instead we were met by queues of cars, each lining up in a bid to reach a border guard to be let through to the land of paprika and quirky music. Alas, too late we realised that we had joined the wrong queue. We still did not have our visas and it was impossible to rectify our mistake. Cars in front of us, cars each side and cars behind formed a solid impenetrable wall. We reached ‘our’ border guard. He demanded our passports and soon discovered that they were not stamped with a visa. He told us to turn the car and go back to the office to organise our paperwork. No way! We were locked in a solid sea of cars. The queue of people behind us was becoming irate. Eventually the guard told us to drive through to the other side of the border and wait there in the car whilst George obtained the necessary visas.

We waited for over an hour and there was still no sign of George. I needed a toilet and I wanted to find out why there was a delay. I approached a border guard and asked if I could go to the office. He demanded my passport. I told him I did not have it as my husband was in the office with the passports organising the visas. He told me that without a passport I could not cross the border. Finally I persuaded him that if he did not let me through there would be an ‘accident’. He relented.

I found George in a long queue but eventually we had our visas and were pleased that we could finally continue on our journey. Or could we? When we reached the border guard he wanted to know where our car was. We told him it was on the other side of the border. He told us that was impossible: “You cannot get a car across the border without a passport”!

But we did!!!!